Startup Gets Funding for “Club Penguin for Adults” Workplace App

(Noted News) — Taking a bet that the work-from-home phenomenon is more or less permanent, Cosmos Video is launching a digital workplace app reminiscent of Club Penguin or Habbo Hotel; you pick an avatar, walk around to different rooms of your office space, and engage in video chats or other interactions with your coworkers. 

Founded by Rahul Goyal and Karan Baweja, former team leaders at Citymapper and TransferWise respectively, Cosmos’s co-founders said that they wanted to bring back the day to day social interactions of office culture that disappeared during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Goyal said that traditional video conferencing platforms have done a good job facilitating quick meetings, but don’t replicate a proper office experience. 

“Once the pandemic hit, we both saw productivity surge in our respective teams but at the same time, people were missing the in-office culture. Video conferencing platforms provide a great service when it comes to meetings, but they lack the spontaneity and fun that form the basis of our relationships. Cosmos is a way to bring back that human connection that we’re lacking when we spend all day online, by providing a virtual world where you can play a game of Pictionary after work with colleagues or gather around a table to celebrate a friend’s birthday.”

The London based startup received $2.6 million in funding from venture capitalist LocalGlobe, in coordination with talent investor Entrepreneur First, two of Europe’s heavyweight venture capitalist firms. LocalGlobe has previously seeded companies like Transferwise, Songkick, and Zoopla. 

The app is currently being tested in a private beta version used by a group of companies for different social events in their office like meetings, parties, and casual get-togethers. They are also working out a way to use it for non-workplace scenarios like family gatherings or event hosting.

Co-founder Karan Baweja said they were motivated by the counterproductive effect of social media which claims to bring everyone together, but in fact makes us feel more depressed, alone, and insecure.

“Online platforms have used the concept of ‘community’ as their mission statement, but scrolling through feeds of comments, pictures, and recorded videos have only served to make us feel more alone. With Cosmos, we’ve striven to create something which captures that magical feeling of being together so people can enjoy live experiences online when they can’t in-person.” 

Baweja and Goyal studied together at London Business School where they sparked an entrepreneurial spirit and later built Spyn, an on-demand dry-cleaning service. Goyal went on to be instrumental in the rise of the public transit app Citymapper, leading the Ride and Pass development team. 

Bawajea went on to head the Borderless Account team at Transferwise, one of the world’s leading global payments systems.

With a taste of success with their first startup and some more experience inside a couple of tech giants, the two founders created Cosmos Video in 2020, not wasting any time in getting their seed investments. 

Cosmos Video’s main competition will be Zoom and Microsoft’s Teams. Though it’s common for incumbent companies to tweak their platforms to match characteristics of approaching competition, such as Instagram adding “stories” to compete with Snapchat and “reels” to compete with TikTok, Teams or Zoom would have a long way to go before being able to match Cosmos. Neither of these platforms has the fluid, spontaneous vibe that Cosmos has with its avatars and digital office spaces. 

Users can “walk around” offices and engage in video chats whenever they want without following any concrete rules or schedules. It also offers collaborative tools that users can work on together, like Google docs or virtual whiteboards, or casual fun stuff like board games or chat rooms.

George Henry, a partner at LocalGlobe, believes the company and the trend it follows shows a lot of promise. 

“We were really impressed with the vision and potential of Cosmos. Scaling live experiences online is one of the big internet frontiers where there are still so many opportunities. Now that the video infrastructure is in place, we believe products like Cosmos will enable new forms of live online experiences.”

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